Interaction of normal children with anatomical dolls

Abigail B. Sivan*, David P. Schor, Gina K. Koeppl, Linn D. Noble

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Anatomical (sexually explicit) rag dolls are frequently used in interviews of children suspected of being sexually abused. Abused children have been noted clinically to be aggressive and sometimes sexually precocious in their doll play, and testimony to that effect is often accepted in the courtroom as pertinent evidence. However, to date, normative data on the play behaviors with the sexually explicit dolls have been unavailable. This pilot study provides empirical information on the play interaction of a relatively large number of normal (nonreferred) children with anatomical dolls. One hundred forty-four children (ages 3 to 8 years) were observed in a playroom containing these special dolls during three conditions: (1) with an adult present, (2) without an adult, and (3) with the dolls undressed. The observations showed that nonreferred children found these dolls no more interesting than other toys. Little aggression and no explicit sexual activity were observed. In contrast to clinical observation of abused children, the doll play of nonreferred children is unlikely to be characterized by aggression or sexual concerns; thus these behaviors when observed in interaction with these dolls should be taken seriously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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